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ther people in voluntary expreffions of out ward devotion, it too often happens that fuch perfons are deftitute of the fubftance and reality of religion. They are like the formal complementing fort of people in civil converfation, who commonly have very little in them, and notwithstanding all their fmooth outside and appearance, they have neither that folidity nor fincerity which is in many a plain ordinary man.

II. An orthodox profeffion of the Chriftian faith. This is another form of religion, which the more knowing and inquifitive fort of men are apt to take up and reft in. And this is that which, in the Jewish religion, the Apostle calls a form of knowledge, and of the truth in the law.

And this is good as far as it goes. But then it must not reft only in the brain, but defcend from thence upon the heart and life: otherways a man may have this form of godliness, and yet be a denier of the power of it. St. Paul puts this very cafe, that a man may have the theory and knowledge of religion, and yet if it do not produce the fruits of a good life, it is nothing worth, 1 Cor. xiii. 2. Though I have the gift of prophecy, and underftand all myfteries, and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, fo that I could remove mountains, and have no charity, I am nothing. And the reafon is plain, becaufe the knowledge of religion is only in order to the practice of it; and an article or propofition of faith is an idle thing, if it do not produce fuch actions as the belief of fuch a propofition doth require.


There are many perfons in the world very follicitous about an orthodox belief, and mightily concerned to know what the fcriptures, but especially what the councils and fathers, have declared in such a matter; and they are nice and fcrupulous in these things, even to the utmost punctilios, and will, with a moft unchriftian paffion, contend for the Chriftian faith yet perhaps all this while they can allow themselves in plain fins, and in the practice of fuch things as are in feripture as clearly forbidden to be done, as any thing is there commanded to be believed. Whereas religion does not confift fo much in nicety and fubtilty of belief, as in integrity and innocency of life; and the


truest and most orthodox perfuafion in matters of religion, is but a mere form and image, if it be not accompanied with an anfwerable practice; yea, like the image prefented to Nebuchadnezzar in his dream, whofe head was of fine gold, but the legs and feet were iron and clay. Not but that a right belief is of great concernment in religion; but then this belief must be prosecuted into the proper and genuine confequences of it, upon our lives: if it be not, it is unhappy for men that they believe fo well, when they live fo ill. The devils have a right faith, St James tells us, they believe and tremble. And indeed none have fo much reafon to tremble, as thofe who believe the principles of religion, and yet are conscious to themselves that they live contrary to them; because of all perfons in the world they are the moft inexcufable.

III. Another form of religion which many take upon them, is enthufiafm, and pretence to infpiration. And this is a very glorious form, which is apt to dazzle and amuse the ignorant, because they know not what to make of it. It seems to be fomething ftrange and extraordinary, and yet it is nothing but what every man that has confidence enough may pretend to.

There is no Christian doubts but that the Spirit of God hath heretofore infpired men in an extraordinary manner, and that he may do fo again when he pleases: but fince the great and standing revelation of the gospel, we have reason not to be rafh in giving heed to fuch pretences. If those who pretend to infpiration declare nothing but what is revealed in the gospel already, their inspiration is needlefs; if they declare any thing contrary thereto, we are fufficiently cautioned against them; if any thing befides the revelation of the gofpel, but not contrary to it, then we are to expect what evidence they bring for their infpiration. For God does not infpire men for their own fakes, but for the fake of others; and another man's infpiration is nothing to me, unless he can fatisfy me that he is infpired. For either I must believe every one that pretends to infpiration, or those only that can make good their pretence. Not every one, for then I yield up myfelf to the mercy of every confident man, to lead


me into what defufions he pleases. If I believe only thofe who are able to make good this pretence, then am I in no great danger; for nothing less than a miracle can give me reasonable affurance of another man's infpiration; and, I think, few or none of our modern enthufafts have fo much as pretended to miracles. So that this form of religion is calculated only to impofe upon the ignorant, but fignifies little among the fteady and confiderate fort of people.

Nay, if this pretence were real, yet it may be no more than a form of religion. For the Apoftle fupposes that men may have the gift of prophecy, and yet want charity, without which they are nothing. And our Saviour tells us, that many fhall plead at the day of judgment, Have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name caft out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And yet thefe very perfons, for all this, may be workers of iniquity, and fuch as our Lord will bid to depart from him.

IV. A great external fhew of mortification.

This the Pharifees of old did much applaud themfelves in, they fafted twice a week. And this is ftill a great part of the religion of many in the Romish church; they impofe ftrict penalties and corporal feverities upon themselves; abstain from several forts of meats and drinks, watch and afflict their bodies with feveral forts of rigours whereas one fevere refolution of a good life, well profecuted, is a thousand times better than all this.

For experience fhews us, that men may be very fevere to their bodies, and yet favourable to their lufts. The Pharifees indeed fafted often, but they were ravenous in another kind, they devoured widows houfes. It is poffible that men may kill themselves by corporal aufterities, and yet never mortify one luit; they may submit to a thousand penances, and yet never truly repent of one fin; they may turn pilgrims, and go as far as Jerufalem to vifit our Saviour's fepulchre, and yet never know the power of his death.

Fafting may be a good inftrument of religion, if it be difcreetly ufed; and as it may be ufed, there may be no religion in it. But as for those other kinds of feverities, they are abfurd and fuperftitious, and taken


up upon a great mistake of the nature of God; as if he were never well pleased, but when we do fomething very difpleafing to ourselves; as if he were extremely delighted in the mifery and torment of his creatures; and to be cruel and unmerciful to ourfelves, were the only way to move his compaffion towards us.

Thefe are barbarous and heathenish conceits of God; and the abfurd practices grounded upon them are no where recommended to us in fcripture, nor have any example there, but only in Baal's priefts, who lanced and cut themselves, believing that to be a good way to incline their gods to hear them. Thefe are voluntary fuperftitions, which God hath required at no man's hands. And no wife man can doubt, but that he that really mortifies his lufts, and fubdues his paffions, may be a good man, though he never whipt himself in all his life; and that he that lives foberly, and righteously, and godly, may juftly be accounted religious, without turning vagrant, and rambling idly up and down the world. Thefe are fuch forms of religion as can have no esteem and reputation, but in a very fuperftitious church and age.

V. An imperfect repentance, and partial reformation. By an imperfect repentance, I mean a trouble and forrow for fin, without the forfaking of it, and the amendment of our lives; or when, if men do reform in fome things, they continue in the love and practice of other fins. This is not true repentance; for he that hath truly repented, is heartily troubled for all his offences against God, and refolved not to commit the like again; but he that retains any luft, and allows himself in the practice of it, is not troubled that he hath offended God, but hath left his fins for fome other reason. For whatever arguments and confiderations, refpecting God, will move a man to quit any one luft, ought, upon the fame account, to prevail with him to abandon all. So that whatever trouble and forrow a man may pretend for his fins, there is no furer fign of an infincere repentance, than if, after this, he continue in the habitual practice of any known fin.

VI. The appearance, and oftentation of fome particular grace and virtue.

A man

A man may be moved by the inclination of his na. ture, or upon fome intereft and defign, to the practice of fome particular virtue. Some are tender and compaffionate in their nature, and that excites them to charity; others of quiet and eafy difpofitions, and that makes them patient, and meek, and peaceable ; others affume one or more virtuous qualities, out of vain-glory, or to ferve fome other interest. The Pharifees were much in giving alms, because this is a piece of religion univerfally applauded, and well fpoken of; and therefore though they omitted many other neceffary parts of religion, yet they were fo cunning that they would not be defective in this; not out of regard to God, but themfelves and their own reputation. For, as our Saviour obferves, they did their alms with fuch circumstances of vain-glory, as quite blafted the glory of them. They caufed a trumpet to be founded before them in the fynagogues, and in the streets, that they might be feen of men, and have glory of them.

Now, though the exercife of every grace and virtue be materially a fubftantial part of religion, yet the practice of one virtue, with the neglect of others, is a fhrewd ground of fufpicion that it is not virtue but defign, that it is not religion but intereft which prompts men to it. For if it were religion, and done with regard to God, the very fame reafon would oblige them to all other parts of their duty as well as that.

VII. A great zeal for fome particular party, or opinions, or circumftances of religion.

This form is frequently affumed, because men find the greatest shelter and protection under it. He that declares zealoufly for a party or opinion, and is fierce and cager against thofe that oppofe it, feldom fails to gain the reputation of a religious and godly man; becaufe he hath the vote of the whole party, and a great number to cry him up. And if he be guilty of any mifcarriage, unless it be very grofs and vifible, he fhalt never want those that will apologize for him, and be ready to vindicate him at all turns. Either they will not believe what is reported of him, but impute it to malice; or they will extenuate it, and afcribe it to human infirmity: but till they cannot but think he is a


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